January 25, 2021

Mark Parsons – Poetry in Pieces

Mark Parsons – Poetry in Pieces
Leg 

Panel the color of raw 
steak discoloring 
once it's exposed to the air 
slides on its runner, crosscutting fibres 
bunched into fascicles sheathed with elastin 
that shift like amoebas, contract, clinch, 
then dilate again. 
Panel 
after panel, 
runners underfoot and 
thickness of panels decreasing. 
A click, 
something catches. 
Or caught, 
something releases 
and scrapes to the opposite wall. 
This fleshly corridor 
can’t go on much longer: 
the panels can get no thinner. 
The thought of hiding 
once I’m out, 
the reason not to hide. 
Never did I present agoraphobia, 
or tendencies . . . say, 
vampiric. 
No symptoms of anemia. 
Never was a bleeder, 
in any sense. 
I have to keep my nerve. 
It's all that separates me from 
my surroundings. 
My leg 
feels . . . feels like. 



Prologue 
 
Taking life 
one rescue 
animal 
at a time: 
two guys. As 
a girl, 
she kind of said. 
I just want you to like me, 
just want. 
Modified search: 
television 
or tv 
guide. Symbols. 
Violence. Adult content, 
themes. Cable 
knit sweater. 
 


Inner Life Scroll 
 
1. 
 
Naked out of the ditch of tall, overgrown weeds, 
I feel the lawn soft as deep pile 
under my sooty feet, but my soles continue to pound 
with the memory of blacktop, 
and the building 
I couldn't find then, in my dream, 
I can't, following the same directions, find now, 
the well-watered lawn  
soft 
as deep pile, 
soft as the carpeting 
in the corridor 
his directions were to follow. 
The corridor 
was lined with doors 
and made of breezeblocks painted white, 
just like the whitewashed building I was searching for 
in my dream when he gave me directions, 
his ruddy complexion 
bled ashen 
by deep forest green shirt. 
 
 
2. 
 
Still wearing 
the green shirt. Still standing 
at attention 
on the manicured, rolling lawn. 
He gives no sign of having seen me earlier, 
when I walked out the door 
and dazzled by the pool’s expanse of choppy glare 
looked over my shoulder at where he was standing on the terrace, laughing. 
 
His wet, curly 
red locks 
across white 
 
as alabaster brow, he leaned forward, 
over the banister . . . 
an expansive, sweeping gesture— 
 
Going back 
the way I came, 
the carpet in the corridor 
again . . .
 
even though the doors aren't numbered 
I know I'm not in the building 
I'm looking for. 
 
 
3. 
 
How cold I am inside her house at dusk, 
after the sun’s gone down 
but it’s yet light out on the lawn, 
how objects and colors withdraw outside
floor-to-ceiling windows: 
red tile of patio 
and dirty stucco wall I can’t see over 
to see the lawn sloping down to the man I can’t see. 
 
What would one of her guests say if they walked in and saw me 
standing naked in her kitchen? 
Her kitchen broken into and entered? 
 
 
4. 
 
Not expected 
by the guests who have gathered to listen 
to her play her guitar, 
I find the quilt she’s left folded in half 
behind the planter filled with plastic bamboo and white rocks 
that sparkle in the little available light. 
I find an opened pack of cigarettes missing only one cigarette. 
 
As the tempo picks up 
I know I can wait for her guests to leave. 
Hearing the tempo pick up, 
will her girlfriend take the hint and leave? 
Take the hint and stay? 
 
 
5. 
 
In the morning I discover 
she’s made the quilt into a summer robe and sash. 
During the pregame ceremony on tv, 
dutifully standing erect 
as he waits, 
one in a row at midfield: 
his white hair 
a stiff, spiky, moussed shock, 
bright, polished brown leather brogues dipped 
in sharp blades of smooth meadow lawn grass: the green  shirt he wore 
bled his flushed features; he’s hale and hearty  
in navy blazer and khaki pants. 
 


Italicized Primitive 

Shakespeare and Eliot 
paid attention. 
Reading “Prufrock,” I think 
he was an empathetic man, who paid attention. 
Shakespeare goes on too long: 
paying attention in clear apposition to being considerate, 
thinking of others. 
Paying attention displaces the empathy. 
A man like Eliot needs a poem, else to what end all his feeling? 
Would not sympathy cloud his attention? 
And doesn’t his art keep them distinct, separate, a good thing? 
Like dug-out canoes to 
an island 
going low and fast, 
lined with fire-hardened mud. 
Can you hear the drums? 
Hands beating 
plastic 
five gallon buckets. 
See the mincing water? 
 


Gary Cooper 
 
Versus the Heavy 
in Josef Von Sternberg's Desire, the two men, 
seated at opposite ends of a table much longer than wide, backs of their chairs 
to the edges of screen, face off at dinner, 
Marlene in the middle, her eyes on her plate, which is empty and clean 
and as white as an egg. 
Engineer Tom, 
a fantastically long 
leg under said table, kicks the revolver 
from closeup of rival's exquisitely downy and feminine hand, 
who’s relaxed and reclined in his chair that he's scooted some distance away from the table 
as Mr. Antagonist is: 
Gary Cooper 
the bigger phallus, a bigger phallus 
than the petty gangster, without his moll and on the lam. 
 
What a gloomy woman Dietrich must have been in real life, 
playing the muse for von Sternberg: 
imagine yourself as a girl who is having menarche, 
when Ginsberg finds out and composes a poem, reciting it outside the door 
to the bathroom you've buttressed against 
his uniquely misguidedly gay, Jewish attempt to commemorate 
the momentous occasion. 
 
Every day she wakes up, goes to work and wonders 
What the hell have I got into? 
In her '76 farewell 
television broadcast 
she sang “I Wish You Love,” a small 
delicate gesture nobody needed. 
During her performance in the nightclub in Morocco 
Dietrich saunters over 
to a table 
of well-dressed whites. 
Choosing a woman she lifts up her chin 
and then kisses her 
on the mouth. 
The woman hides her face in her hands as the other patrons laugh and shriek. 
Cooper 
could be a chair, 
in his chair. 
 
Dietrich moved through her scenes, 
delivered lines, 
and burned the contours of every gesture 
like a fuse. 



Wheat Will Grow Tall In Rich Soil, But That Doesn't Mean It Will Yield More, Or Ambiguity And The Rod Of Correction In The Heartland 
 
People who hate me I meet 
half-way 
up or down the abstract steps 
I didn’t bother to demonstrate once I solved for the 
independent variable, 
mathematical steps these people 
are always confident, 
had I done them, would've saved me 
being wrong, derided, cringed over and laughed at: 
champions 
of me 
showing my work. 
 


Sheila 

Pounding her fist on the door, 
her bracelet of wooden beads laps like seeds inside a gourd. 
Like Sheila’s husband, I married Sheila. 
Wondering how many times we’ve been married, 
or in how many different ways, 
yields not 
one answer only, but—like my silence—multitudes. 

***

Mark Parsons received his MFA from the University of Arizona. His poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in Dalhousie Review, The Floor Plan, North Dakota Quarterly, Antigonish Review, Chariton Review, and Cobalt Review. He lives in Tokyo, Japan. 

Fictional Cafe

#gary cooper#mark parsons#poetry#slice of life poem

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